Tag Archives: insanity

The Bad Days

They don’t tell you about the bad days.

They don’t tell you about the bad days when you’re sick and you’re alone with two children and everything they say, every little thing, leaves you feeling like your eardrums have been pierced by a thousand needles and your entire world is confined to an everlasting world of noise and pain and pointless arbitration.

They don’t tell you about the bad days when your fever is so high you’re starting to hallucinate, but your two-year-old still needs cuddles and your children still need dinner and you find yourself crying while you’re cooking some barely-nutritious meal and you don’t even know why.

They don’t tell you about the bad days when your entire body aches and your children give you ninja-cuddles that leave you breathless and overwhelmed and you do your best to smile and thank them, but after the fourteenth time you snap and yell at them not to touch you.

They don’t tell you about the bad days when you sit inside your mind, watching yourself be the parent you never want to be, and you can’t. Seem. To stop.

They don’t tell you about the bad days when the guilt is worse than all the sickness in the world.

They don’t tell you about the bad days when you want to yell and scream and punch the walls and tell these beautiful children in your care that you just want them to leave you alone for five expletive minutes, and the effort of not doing exactly that is so draining that the tears flow freely.

They don’t tell you about the bad days when the effort is too much, and you do yell at them and you see their little faces crumble and you would do anything, anything, if you could just step back in time two minutes and take back those words and be the person they need you to be.

They don’t tell you about the bad days.

And when they come.

(Because they will.)

All you can do.

Is hope that tomorrow.

Is a good one.

The Superheroes

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It’s Only Cute the First Seven Hundred Times

Big BrotherAs a parent, there are several milestones you look forward to on your child’s journey to adulthood. Learning how to walk, for example. Or, in the case of boys, managing to use the toilet without peeing all over the floor (and walls, towels, spare toilet paper, etc). Maybe even that magical day when your child finally moves out of home.

But I digress.

One of the biggest, most magical milestones of all is when your little bundle of joy starts to talk.

Both of my boys have been what we in the parenting business refer to as “late talkers”. That’s to say that, unlike my friends’ children who were saying real words by eight months old, my boys didn’t say their first words until well after they turned one.

(But I can assure you, they quickly made up for it by talking incessantly.)

Regardless of when it happens, though, there’s a magical moment when your child looks up at you and calls you Mummy. And your heart melts.

In most cases, Mummy is a child’s first word. Sometimes the second word if they choose to say Daddy first.

Have I mentioned before that my kids aren’t like other kids?

Big Brother’s first word was ‘cheese’. This was followed quickly by ‘car’, ‘tyre’, and then ‘Mummy’. (‘Daddy’ didn’t come until after he’d mastered ‘truck’, ‘shoe’, ‘train’, and ‘sky’.)

So on that wonderous day, when Big Brother smiled at me and said, “Mum,” I stated with absolute certainty that I would never, even get sick of hearing him say my name.

Little Brother was a bit different. His first word was ‘Ta’. Which was nice. And then ‘Mummy’.

See, look how cute he is:

Dear non-parents,

This is not cute.

I mean, it is. But…

Do you know how long my “I’ll never get sick of hearing Big Brother say my name” resolution lasted? Less than a week. It may have even been less than a day.

Why?

Okay, I’d like you to do something for me. I’d like you to watch that video of Little Brother again. It goes for 15 seconds, so I want you to listen to it four times in a row. That’s what it’s like to experience one minute of my life.

Now listen to it 240 times in a row. That’s roughly one hour.

Still think it’s cute?

Ah well, there’s always the next major milestone to look forward to.

How old do kids have to be before they can move out of home?

Did you make any crazy, impossible to keep resolutions before or soon after you became a parent?

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It’s Funny Because it’s True

Building Blocks

“Mummy?” called five-year-old Big Brother.

“Yes?”

“Can you come and look at my building?”

I sighed, but abandoned the sink full of dirty dishes, shook my hands free of most of the soapy water, and walked to the playroom. Big Brother had built an impressive tower of blocks. “That’s great!” I said. Enthusiastically.

“Thanks,” he said, already paying more attention to his building than to me.

I returned to the kitchen.

Two minutes of silence.

“Mummy?”

“Yes?”

“Come have a look at it now.”

“I’ll be there in just a minute,” I said, trying to get just one more plate clean.

“Okay, but don’t be long.”

One… one thousand… two… one thousand … three …

“Are you coming?”

“Coming!” I shook my hands again and returned to the playroom. There were an additional four blocks on the tower. “Looking good,” I said.

“Thanks.”

Return to the kitchen. Stick hands in water.

“Mummy? Come have a look now!”

“I’ll be there in a minute,” I said. Seriously, he hadn’t even had time to do anything yet!

“Okay. Are you coming now?”

“In just a minute.”

Two-year-old Little Brother wandered past me into the playroom. I sighed and followed. This could only end in tears. (Probably mine.) In the past, the only reason Little Brother ever wanted to go near the building blocks was so he could destroy whatever his brother was working on.

But not this time.

By the time I got there, Little Brother had stacked a few blocks on top of each other. “Brother!” he yelled at the top of his lungs. “Brother!”

“Yes?” said Big Brother.

“Look! Look!”

Big Brother looked up from his building and nodded, “That’s good, Little Brother.” Then he looked at me. “Look at my building, Mummy!”

He’d added another half-dozen blocks. In all fairness, it was pretty awesome. “You’re doing a great job,” I said. “What’s the bit on the side?”

“A stable for the horses.”

“Great job.”

Then I returned to the kitchen.

One… one thousand… two…

Little Brother’s shrill voice. “Brother! Brother! Brother! Look!”

Big Brother. “That’s good.”

Silence.

Little Brother again. “Brother! Look! Brother! Look!”

“That’s good, Little Brother. Mummy! Come look at my building!”

I sighed. I knew it was too good to last. “Coming,” I called.

I walked into the playroom to see Little Brother proudly waving his hand in front of his older brother’s face and pointing to his own building. “Big Brother! Look! Look! Look!”

With a frustrated sigh, Big Brother stared at him. “Little Brother, you don’t have to show me every single thing you build, you know.”

Ah, sweet irony.

I don’t think either of them understood why I collapsed into near-hysterical laughter.

 

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Sending an Email in an Envelope

Once upon a time, a long time ago, we didn’t have this thing called “the internet”. If we wanted to communicate with someone a long way away, we had to talk to them on the phone. Or, more likely, write them a letter.

No, not an email. A letter. It’s an old-fashioned email. You write it on a piece of paper, put the paper in an envelope, put a stamp and an address on the envelope, and then leave it out front for the Magical Postal Fairies to pick it up and deliver it to your friend. Amazing, right?

When I was a little girl, writing letters was exciting. And receiving them even more so. We were taught how to write letters at school and then we had have the chance to connect with a Pen Pal. That is, another child of about the same age who lived in another city. Or state. Or even country. And we wrote letters to our Pen Pal, and received them in turn, learning about our new friends slowly and surely.

Quite frankly, it was a great experience. And one that I really wanted to pass on to my kids. But how do you go about finding an old-school Pen Pal in this digital, instant gratification, IMing, texting, emailing world?

Through the internet, of course!

I’ve made some great friends through blogging, and I’m lucky enough to have been able to arrange Pen Pals for Big Brother via those friends. I’m excited. He’s excited. We’re all excited.

Big BrotherBig Brother and I sat and talked about writing letters and drawing pictures and he was immediately eager to get started.

“Shall we write a letter?” I asked.

“Okay. But I can do it all by myself.”

Now, I support his independence 100%. But the fact is, he doesn’t actually know how to read or write. So…

“Are you sure? Because if you like, you can tell me what you’d like to say in the letter and I can write it down for you…”

“No. I can do it all by myself.”

“Okay,” I said. Because, you know, it doesn’t do to discourage him. And if it turned out the letter just said: “EeeHGTTT iLLpQRsssEeee”, I could always include a translation. Right?

So Big Brother sat himself up at the table, asked me to draw some pencil lines on the paper for him to write on, and prepared himself to get started.

“Hmmm…” he said. “D. D– D– D–. Dee!”

He carefully wrote a capital D at the top of the page. Then he chewed on the back of his pen for a couple of minutes. “D– D– D–. Mummy?”

“Yes, sweetie?”

“Did you know that in Dinosaur Land, there are snails but the dinosaurs don’t notice them?”

“That’s interesting.”

“And did you know that America is a very long way away from Australia?”

“I did know that, yes.”

“And Mummy? What letter comes after D in dear?”

I have a feeling writing this letter is going to be a time-consuming process.

Did you have a Pen Pal as a kid? Would you like your children to have the same experience?

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Tidying With Intent

Look at that innocent face. He could do no wrong, right?

Uh. Wrong.

Little Brother is 21 months old, and is the master of coming up with ways to annoy his big brother. I’m pretty sure this is a skill that comes naturally to younger siblings. (My husband and I are both the eldest in our families, and we have plenty of stories about our siblings driving us crazy.) But the interesting thing about Little Brother’s methods are that they involve him finding ways to really, really, really annoy his brother while at the same time doing nothing wrong.

To this end, Little Brother spends a lot of time listening to what I say. Then he takes what I’ve said and turns it to his own ends.

“Let’s put out a blanket and sit on it to eat our lunch,” I said one day. Indoor picnic. Yay!

A few hours later, Big Brother was playing happily by himself, building a world out of figurines and blocks and coloured cloths (blue for water, green for grass, yellow for sand, etc, etc). Along came Little Brother. He watched for a couple of minutes. Then he stomped his way into the middle of the landscape, kicked the buildings and people out of the way and sat down.

Amid Big Brother’s screams of rage and grief, Little Brother held out his hands and looked at me innocently. “Lunch?”

Sometimes it’s hard not to just laugh.

I always encourage Little Brother to tidy up after himself. I work with him to put away his toys, encourage him to put dirty clothes in the washing basket, and other little jobs around the house. He thinks it’s a lot of fun — so much so that he’s taken to waiting impatiently for people to finish eating so he can put their crockery on the bench for them. We talk about tidying up a lot. But I have to admit, I didn’t think this was a skill he would use against his brother.

The boys were playing together nicely yesterday. Big Brother was using his craft things to build some kind of invention, and Little Brother was alternately watching in amazement and half-heartedly stacking blocks. They giggled together from time to time. All was well in the world.

I took the opportunity to disappear into my office and check my email for a few minutes. And that was my first mistake.

“Noooooo!” Big Brother screamed. “Little Brother! No! No! Bad Baby! No!”

Incoherent screeching followed as Big Brother got more and more upset.

I went to investigate. “What’s going on?”

Big Brother was dodging back and forth, trying to prevent Little Brother escaping from the playroom with his prize. “I need it!” Big Brother yelled. “Give it back! I was using it and I need it! Muuuuuuuuummy! I was using the sticky tape and Little Brother snatched it from me and he won’t give it back and now my invention is ruined!”

Sure enough, Little Brother was clutching the sticky tape to his chest as he tried to run around Big Brother’s outstretched arms.

He saw me watching and, using my appearance as a suitable distraction, ducked under his brother’s arm, and ran to the set of drawers that house the craft goods. With a satisfied smile, Little Brother deposited the sticky tape away in its rightful place and closed the drawer. Then he looked at me proudly and clapped his hands. Look! he seemed to be saying. I tidied up the sticky tape before you even asked me to! Aren’t I a good boy?

And with Big Brother’s mournful wails still echoing in my ears, I left the room.

Because getting the giggles in front of a devastated five year old has got to be bad parenting karma.

 

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Motherhood: When One Plus One Equals Infinity

“… a person with one child, I don’t really call them a parent, because there are too many things left out. If you have just one child, there are too many things left out. For instance, if something’s broken in the house, you have one child, you know who did it! See, you don’t have to go through “I… I… I…”. You know the child did it! Also, people with one child do not have to go through “Will you stop touching me?” I mean, if you got one child and the child is doing that, then you gotta take it away.”

— Bill Cosby: Himself (1983)

When I was a kid, my parents had a cassette tape (remember them?) of Bill Cosby’s stand up and on occasion we’d pop it in the tape player and listen to it. I remember hearing the above bit of comedy and chuckling along with the laugh track. “Ha ha ha! That’s so funny! Because sometimes I say ‘Stop touching me!’, too. Ha ha ha!”

I’m pretty sure my parents thought it was funny for a different reason.

The next time I heard old Bill’s thoughts, I only had one child. Big Brother was an only child until he was almost four years old, so I had quite a few years to experience what it was like. And although I may not have had to wonder who broke something (“It was my imaginary friend! I told him not to, but he did it anyway!”), and I rarely had to listen to “Will you stop touching me!” (unless it was the imaginary friend again), parenting wasn’t easy. There are a whole range of challenges that come with having one child. So this time when I listened to Cosby’s spiel, I wasn’t quite so amused.

And then Little Brother was born. The first six, seven, eight months were fine. Then he started crawling. And walking. And learned how to stamp his little foot and pout and scream until he turned purple. And now things are interesting. These days, when I think about Bill Cosby’s routine, I think, “Oh, yeah. Tell it how it is, Brother.” Not because I think parents of one child have it easy, but because the challenges of having multiple children are so very, very different.

Just today, I was helping Big Brother with some of the finer details of the “world” he was setting up in the playroom when Little Brother decided he’d had enough of his brother “getting all the attention”. So Little Brother grabbed his cup of juice, pulled the non-spill lid off the top, and enthusiastically poured the juice all over himself, the floor, and as many of Big Brother’s toys as he could. “Look, Ma! Now you have to pay attention to me!”

Fortunately, the world survived Juice Armageddon.

I didn’t even blink. At least this time his protest was quiet.

This is the soundtrack to an average morning in my house.

“Mummy, Little Brother is touching something he’s not supposed to! Mummy, he’s still doing it! Mummy, he’s still doing it! Mummy, Little Brother isn’t doing it anymore but now he’s in the kitchen. Mummy, Little Brother is in the kitchen! Mummy, now Little Brother is opening the cupboard! Mummy, he’s doing something he’s not allowed to! Mummy!”

I don’t know which is more annoying: the child doing the wrong thing or the child reporting on it.

I haven’t yet had an instance of “He’s touching me!”. But I regularly get, “Mummy, Little Brother won’t let me cuddle him.”, and “Mummy, Little Brother won’t give me a kiss.”

And then there’s the “I had it first!” scenarios. You’d think these things would be pretty simple to work out. There’s a toy. There’s two children. One of them clearly had it first. Simple, right? Uh, no. Because there’s circumstances and under the table deals and a complicated chain of events that even a crack squad of investigators couldn’t untangle.

“Well, Little Brother did have the red car but then I swapped him the red car for the blue car and then he put the blue car away and got the green car and then we played racing but when the cars went over the bridge the green car was winning and Little Brother wanted the red car and I took the green car and then I won and Little Brother threw the red car away and tried to take the green car so I gave it to him because the red car’s my favourite anyway and then I got the red car and he went and got the blue car and then he had the blue car and the green car and then he gave me the blue car and he tried to take the red car but he can’t  have it because it’s mine!”

I’ve done my share of trying to work out who was at fault. Rookie mistake. There are really only three viable solutions.  

  1. Tell them to work it out themselves, leave the room and pour yourself a glass of wine.
  2. Make an arbitrary decision, have one of them cry/yell/scream, leave the room and pour yourself a glass of wine.
  3. Go all King Solomon on them and tell them neither of them can have the toy. Expectation one of them to admit they’re in the wrong. Be disappointed when neither of them does.  Take the toy away and have both of them start screaming. Leave the room and pour yourself a glass of wine.

And then there’s the fact that having multiple children makes you sound psychotic when you’re out and about doing the grocery shopping. “Twinkle, twinkle, little — Big Brother, please hold on to the trolley — star. How I wonder — Little Brother, take that out of your mouth — what you… Wait, where did you — Big Brother, please hold on to the trolley. Remember your walking feet. Thank you. Little Brother, where’s your dummy? Darn it. Big Brother, can you see Little Brother’s — There it — No, you can’t have a toy. I’m sorry that makes you sad. Here you go, Little Brother. Twinkle twinkle — If you’re just going to throw it away, you can’t have it back. Can we please stop banging into the trolley, Big Brother? Twinkle, twinkle… What do we need to buy? Let’s just go home.”

But going home seems like such a waste. Because getting out of the house is such a long, drawn-out process. You have to get both children to the point where they’ve eaten, had a drink, been to the toilet, put their shoes on, brushed their teeth, washed their faces, and are ready to go. And you need to get them to that point at the exact same moment, while realising that both of them need your undivided attention for each and every step of that process, and as soon as you look away from one of them, he’s going to forget what he was supposed to be doing and start climbing furniture, shooting aliens, or taking his clothes off.

(I’m going to tell you a secret. I once managed to get both children ready and in the car in record time. But just as I was about to climb in myself, I realised I was still wearing my pyjamas. I hadn’t even brushed my hair or put on any make-up. And I really needed to pee.)

One child is challenging, no doubt. But two children is not like having two lots of one child. It’s like having an infinite amount of chaos, noise, and disaster move into your house and force you to love it unconditionally, forever and ever. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to have three, four, or more children. So please, enlighten me.

What are your experiences of being the parent of a single child and/or multiple children? This craziness isn’t just me, right?

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You Have to Be Brave to Get Married

Have I mentioned before that 5-year-old Big Brother is a big thinker? He’ll hear something or see something and think on it for days or weeks before talking to us about it. Lately, he’s had questions about piercings, tattoos and growing up.

“Does it hurt to get your ear pierced?” he asked. After a brief explanation of the level of pain involved, he thought for a few minutes and then said, “I don’t think I’ll get my ears pierced. Except maybe when I’m a grown up.”

I’m pretty happy with that.

“Why doesn’t a tattoo wash off?” he asked. So we told him about tattoos and needles, and my husband explained how it felt to get his done. A few days later, Big Brother asked me, “Do you give the doctor a picture of whatever you want?” After a bit of elaborations (Oh! You’re talking about tattoos!), I explained that, even though doctors are the ones who give you vaccinations, you see a tattoo artist for a tattoo. After a bit more conversation on the subject, Big Brother said thoughtfully, “Did you know vampires aren’t real anymore because they died before the dinosaurs came?”

That was my first clue the conversation was over.“When will I know the name of the person I’m going to marry?” he asked the other day.

He sounded serious so I stopped folding the washing and sat down with him. “Well,” I said. “One day when you’re grown up, you’ll meet someone and get to know them. Every time you think about them, you’ll feel a special kind of love in your heart. And that’s how you’ll know they’re the person you want to marry.”

He thought about that. “When will I be a Daddy?” he asked.

“When you have a baby,” I answered. I waited to see if he wanted me to elaborate further, but that answer seemed to satisfy him. (I make it a point not to over-complicate things. It’s very easy to answer the question I think he was asking rather than the question he was actually asking.)

He was quiet for a couple of minutes, his fingers fiddling with the toy he’d forgotten he was holding while his mind whirred. Eventually he asked, “What if I feel them in my heart but I’m too afraid to get married?”

I smiled. “Well, sometimes that happens. Getting married is a very big deal.”

He sighed and gave me a knowing look. “You have to be brave to get married.”

True that, boyo.

 

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